When Kenzie Green relocates to Atlanta, she isn't looking for a man to complete her family. Then she meets her enigmatic new neighbor across the hall. Jonathan Trelauney seems to know just how to handle Kenzie's domestic handful. And her kids are already falling in love with the widowed artist Kenzie's twin son and daughter are shattering his peace...and JT loves every minute of it! They're slowly but surely bringing him out of his reclusive shell. Now he'd like to do the same for their independent single mom. Can JT make Kenzie see that he's a man she can count on? That he can be the husband and father her family needs?
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September 08, 2008
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Excerpt from A Dad for Her Twins by Tanya Michaels
"Peachy Acres is a stupid name," Drew complained from the backseat.
Thank you, Mr. Optimism. Mackenzie Green, intrepid single mom and owner of a minivan that was older than her nine-year-old twins, sighed inwardly.
Kenzie empathized with her son's unhappiness over moving, but his negative commentary was making the four-hour trip from Raindrop, North Carolina, to Atlanta, Georgia, feel like an interminable cross-country trek. Or a voyage in space, she thought, vaguely recalling some old movie promo about no one being able to hear you scream. Too often Kenzie felt as if she were screaming on the inside.
Behind her, Leslie had adopted the prim, emphatic tone that made her sound like a cranky schoolteacher. "I'm sure it's called Peachy Acres because Georgia is the Peach State," she informed her brother.
Drew was unimpressed. "Know-it-all. I hate when you talk like you're older than me. We're the same age!"
"A person doesn't have to be older to be smarter."
"All right!" Kenzie took a breath, reminding herself that deep feelings of maternal love prevented her from strapping the kids to the roof for the duration of the trip. Well, maternal love and state laws. "You two be nice."
She was always a touch envious when she heard about inseparable twins who dressed alike and finished each other's sentences. It would be bliss if her children could just go a day without bickering. Heck, an hour--she wasn't picky! Tensions were running abnormally high today; the kids had said goodbye to the only home they'd ever known.
Leslie was coping by burying her nose in a young-adult reference book about Georgia during the Civil War, despite her increased tendency to get carsick while reading. Drew, as had become his habit this past spring, was channeling his misery into anger. Would the new setting do him good, giving him the chance for a fresh start and provide distractions like the zoo and natural-science museum, or were Kenzie's difficulties with her son about to get worse?
She'd debated turning down this transfer to a Georgia branch of the bank she worked for, but the Atlanta location had far more frequent job openings than the small bank in Raindrop, including the position of loan officer, to which she was being promoted. The stress of moving and the higher cost of living seemed worth the much-improved salary and increased odds of upward mobility. Another plus was that Kenzie's sister lived in the Atlanta area. Even if the two hadn't been close as children, it would do Kenzie and her kids some good to have family nearby. Nice, stable family.
Besides, although Kenzie was fond of the little town they'd been living in, she was looking forward to having the kids in a different school. She'd chosen their new home based largely on the district in which it was located. At the tiny elementary school in Raindrop, there had been no gifted curriculum to challenge bookish Leslie, and many of the instructors were a stone's throw from retirement. Drew's third-grade teacher, who had only a year left to go, had lacked the energy to address Drew's growing number of outbursts in class, countermanding Kenzie's warnings that losing his temper would carry consequences. Not that Kenzie blamed Mrs. Blaugarten for Drew's behavior problems.
While Drew had always been active, last spring had been the first time he'd taken his extracurricular sports seriously. He'd been surrounded by fathers coaching teams and volunteering to work the concession stands, dads coming to watch their sons score goals in soccer or hit a baseball into the outfield. For Drew, the runs he batted in paled in comparison to the fact his father had never witnessed them, despite glib promises to be there.
"Mo-om?" Leslie's plaintive wail cut through Kenzie's thoughts. "I don't feel so--"
"Pull over!" Drew yelled in a panicked voice. "She's gonna blow!"
Kenzie signaled with her blinker as Drew urged, "Hurry!"
Spoken like someone who's never tried to drive a minivan hauling a loaded trailer. She steered gently onto the shoulder, kicking herself for not insisting that Leslie put aside her books for once and sing along to the radio or, better yet, take a catnap to make the ride pass faster.
In the grassy ditch on the side of the road, Kenzie smoothed her daughter's blond hair and handed over a bottle of water from the minicooler in the front seat. Moments later, they were back on the road. Leslie was sufficiently recovered to start bickering with her brother again.
As she stemmed off the burgeoning argument, Kenzie met her own gaze in the rearview mirror. Are we there yet?
"Kids? Kids, we've made it to Aunt Ann's street."
Both children had fallen asleep...during the final ten minutes of the drive. Naturally. Kenzie might have enjoyed the few moments of peace more if she weren't so tired herself. She'd been up at dawn to finish last-minute packing before getting the rental trailer this morning. After loading up their possessions and driving for hours, Kenzie's entire body ached.
Leslie lifted her head from its crooked angle against the seat and peered out the window. It was after seven but, due to the long summer days, still bright outside. Well-dressed children played on shiny scooters in driveways outside two-car, and even the occasional three-car, garages. The first time she'd been here, Kenzie had wrestled with twinges of resentment-- who was she to question why the heck Ann and Forrest Smith needed a palatial, redbrick two-story to themselves? It wasn't their fault that Kenzie and the kids owned a secondhand couch with upholstery so garish it brought to mind the Las Vegas strip, or that they hadn't been able to afford replacing the dishwasher. Besides, Ann and Forrest had started a family now, so they'd probably grow into the space.
Kenzie was momentarily stymied as she approached the Smith residence. On the one hand, she didn't have enough experience maneuvering a trailer to comfortably navigate the driveway and the perfectly manicured flowering shrubs that lined it. On the other hand, she suspected the home owner's association governing the ritzy suburb had some sort of rule about staying parked in the street overnight. She pulled up to the curb for the time being and told herself she'd deal later with any uptight stipulations. The house she and the kids were buying on the opposite side of the city would be their first in an actual subdivision--with a name on the stone entrance and everything--but it didn't quite merit an HOA.
The front door to the house opened, and Kenzie's sister emerged. She'd been born Rhiannon, but these days she was Ann, wife of an economics professor at a small but credentialed local college. Kenzie, twenty-eight and technically older by a year and a half, often felt like the younger sibling. Ann was always the one giving advice, accompanied by head-shaking and sighs. She'd been that way her entire life, determined that she knew better than her crazy parents and older sister.
It had taken until the twins' toddlerhood for Kenzie to realize that, however frustrating Ann's attitude over the years, her sister had a point. Witness how differently their lives had turned out.
Well, twenty-eight is hardly old, and this move is a new beginning. Kenzie had been making slow changes to her life for the past few years. This promotion gave her a chance to create a fresh start for her and the twins. From here on out, she would be practical Kenzie Green, loan officer and suburbanite.
With help from Ann on the legwork, Kenzie had found the perfect home. It wasn't a big house, but it came with like-new appliances, and the school system was fantastic. The only drawback was that the sellers, who were moving out of the country, had put the house up early in case it took time to get an offer. They didn't want to close until mid-October; Kenzie's job started next week. Hence, the Peachy Acres apartment complex and the short-term lease Kenzie had signed. Ann had made halfhearted noises about offering her guest rooms for the interim, but even her sister's spacious home would feel unbearably cramped by the time nearly three months passed.